Leading entrepreneurs shine at Women in ICT event

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The top five finalists of the Women in ICT competition.
The top five finalists of the Women in ICT competition.

Local tech start-up Ejoobi took top honours at the Standard Bank Women in ICT event and competition, winning development and funding support to the value of R300 000.

On Friday, women and some men gathered in Rosebank, Johannesburg, to celebrate women leaders in the ICT industry and crown the overall winner of the bank’s inaugural Women in ICT competition.

Spearheaded by Standard Bank, in partnership with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, the competition provided a platform to five women-owned companies to pitch for a chance to win development and funding support to the value of R300 000.

According to the bank, the objective of the event was to help women ICT entrepreneurs who need assistance in breaking through the glass ceiling that is preventing their businesses from growing into substantial enterprises.

Furthermore, it was to serve as a gathering place for women business owners to discuss and develop areas of partnerships with their peers. 

The top five finalists were chosen from a group of over 70 start-ups that entered the Women in ICT competition, according to Jenine Zachar, enterprise development head at Standard Bank.

Explaining her department’s role within Standard Bank, Zachar said it is in an area that aims to help grow small businesses within the country. “When we say small businesses, we mean everything from ground-zero business that are trying to break into new markets and looking to scale on a global level.

“We get to be the area that gets to develop, support and finds alternative means to finance because we know that is a difficult thing as a small business. We find different ways in which the small businesses can enter into the funding market.”

Ejoobi co-founder Simangele Mphahlele.
Ejoobi co-founder Simangele Mphahlele.

Winners celebrated

The top five finalists were Nneili Mkholisi, CEO of 3DIMO; Palesa Moloi, CEO of ParkUpp; Rumbie Zawu, CEO of UApp; Lesedi Kgaka, founder of OccuPi Space; and overall winner, Simangele Mphahlele, co-founder of Ejoobi.

Ejoobi, a relatively new technology platform, allows job-seekers in rural areas, without Internet access, to send their CVs to recruiters via SMS or USSD. It also allows prospective companies to screen job-seekers’ CVs for jobs.

The company is co-founded by a wife-and-husband team, with its offices based in Midrand. It officially started placing people for jobs in March, and has so far helped 30 people to secure jobs.

According to its mission statement, Ejoobi’s mandate is to connect all job-seekers with potential employers and recruiters in Africa.

“As a job-seeker with limited resources, you need quick access to apply for a job. Ejoobi offers you a service to SMS your CV with supportive documents, to a potential employer or recruiter. SMS is charged at R3 per SMS.”

Deputy minister of communications and digital technologies, Pinky Kekana, was pleased with the turnout, congratulating the women for being pioneers in the male-dominated field.

During her presentation, Kekana highlighted the plight of women representation in the tech space, saying despite decades of certain progress towards equality in the workplace, the imbalance continues. 

Speaking to ITWeb on the sidelines of the event, Kekana said the reality is that the jobs of the future will be driven by technology. “It is upon us to make sure as women, we reskill and upskill ourselves.

“In agriculture, for example, many women play their role in that sector, whether they are vendors or workers in the farming community – they are in the majority. Once you add technology and other advancements to assist them to produce more and market their products, you are saying to them they can be economically empowered.”

The deputy minister continued to say it was important for her department to partner with the bank because government cannot go at it alone. “Where the private sector reaches out to us saying we want to support entrepreneurs and give them start-up capital – we will always be available.

“It is government’s role to create an enabling environment for big corporates to invest, and as they do that, they must plough back. We see this as part of corporate social investment by Standard Bank to reach out to women-owned businesses to grow them in this space,” noted Kekana.  

Zachar added: “It is partnerships like these that help us, with the footprint that we’ve got, to take things even further and reach even more small businesses, so that the impact may be greater.

“We are very grateful to have partnered with the department. We are also partnering with the department to take five SMEs to Budapest for the ITU World Telecom conference for them to compete on a global stage of the technology solutions they have developed,” she concluded.

Standard Bank crowns Ejoobi as winner of its Women in ICT competition.

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